Friday, February 25, 2011


It is my dad's 80th birthday this Sunday.

I have written a little about him- this is the short version :)

My earliest memory of my dad was watching him from the window as he made his way across a field with his piece box (lunch box) tucked under his arm. He was headed to work in the steel works that day.

I can still remember sitting on his knee and laughing at his jokes and us playing pranks on mum. I remember the strength of his big hands when we went out walking - the warmth of my little hand inside. I remember him taking me to the shop for a 'pokey bag' of sweets.

My father has lived a thousand lives, been a million places and has been everything to me. I asked him when l was only two for the moon, 'get it daddy, get it!' and he still remembers and often asks me if l am still reaching for it. Whenever l see the moon l can think only of my father and of my dreams and of his wish for me to pursue them. He has a smile as big as sunshine. I can still remember as clear as if it were yesterday him smiling down at me from the mirror as he shaved. My dad is the funniest man alive- he has fantastic wit and l am so pleased that l have inherited his sense of humour. Sometimes we laugh so hard together it makes us cry. We can keep jokes going back and forth for days and he has a plethora of adventurous tales that everyone enjoys – especially me.

My dad loved puddings – rhubarb crumble and steamed rice he relished. I remember once when my mum had to go into hospital and my dad cooked the dinners – oversized chunky chips and large deserts! Even now he can make the best whiskey marmalade in the world!

My father loved to read- he was never without a book or the paper- and the endless cups of coffee. I remember us watching cartoons together – Mr. Magoo was our favourite and he loved keeping up with the football, boxing and wrestling. I loved watching how animated he would become when he watched a match.

He drew bulldogs - quick as lightning squiggles that l still ask him to do when l visit.

At parties Dad had a trick for hanging balloons from ceilings and walls – he'd rub the balloon on his belly to build up static much to the delight of all us kids watching – my dad was magic!

He is a lifetime of wonderful memories of times and places near and far.

At sixteen he joined the Merchant Navy -and his travelling adventures began.

Dad was in Karachi the very day Pakistan separated from India (1947) and he helped transport Hindu women to safety. He swam in the Suez Canal, brought a monkey back home from Sierra Leone, Africa (bought at the time for 200 cigarettes -part of the 1000 he won at poker!). He traveled throughout the Mediterranean, the Indian ocean, the Red Sea, visited many countries like Egypt, Portugal, Spain, Canada, India, etc. Once in the Bay of Biscay during a severe storm steam rollers and ammunition broke loose in the hull all at the same time!

My father travelled on many different vessels (some now on display at the Museum of Transport-Glasgow). He sailed on the Royal Scotsman, the Aviswell, the Baron Graham, the Baron Ford, etc.

He was stranded for days in the St. Lawrence River because of dense fog, during which time the ship was leaking so they were thankful when they eventually made it back to Montreal for repair.

Dad would return home to Scotland with bunches of bananas, butter and cheeses- much to my Granny's delight because during this time (just after the war) items like these were scarce. But most of all he returned safe, full of adventures and stories.

There is a photograph of my father (above) in a hospital bed with a broken leg. He was working as a male nurse at the time in Hackney, London and posed for this photograph which later became the advertisement poster for a huge nursing campaign. It was postered throughout the London underground, on billboards and at the local exchange.

He was a clever and versatile man who could find achievement wherever he found himself working.

During his years in London he became an auditor for New Consolidated Goldfields – a British gold-mining company. He worked in registrations for gold, copper and diamonds.

He then went on to work for the Trafalgar Insurance Company – dad's office was between Green Park and the Marble Arch- from his desk you could see the tennis courts at Buckingham Palace but he said he never saw anyone playing tennis.! He got five raises in his first year!

In 1959 my father went to Ireland and entered the Belfast Bible College – in 1960 he became Head Boy. My father used this degree to do ministry work among the Jews in London and as we grew up he worked as a local Minister. My father has preached all over the place- from Aberdeen to Toronto, Canada – an exceptional public speaker. You can imagine the values that l was brought up with- taking the Lords name in vain was very bad - swearing was NEVER an option. My father was strict but fair.

I remember holidays that were a tangle of cases legs and shouting children. At Dunbar my dad swam so far out into the ocean that we could no longer see his head – my mother stood frantically waving her arms on the shore shouting for him to return- he had no fear. I remember it raining on that holiday and us playing drafts and dominos in the caravan. My father would hoist us up so easily onto his shoulders, hang all four of us from his arms - two kids on each side- until we let go. Happy days without care and full of love.

I remember our holidays to visit my grandparents- taking the train and boats- sitting up on the side of the boat, my legs dangling over the side with my fathers arms around me- safe – sure that l would not fall.

The help and wisdom he gave to me as a child is still with me and I cherish and use it still.

I was a slender child with runners legs and he encouraged me to sprint in the long meter races. l remember his advice, fall in behind the person leading and let them set the pace until the end- then move! I became a good runner.

Dad encouraged me to read, to speak correctly and corrected my grammar. He could spell any word you could think of and so it became a game for me to find one that would catch him out - l remember using the back of shampoo bottles as inspiration in this quest!

One of the biggest things that my dad brought to our lives was his love of music. The family all played instruments too – mine was guitar. My father taught us to sing with him in harmonies from a young age. As a young man he was asked to sing in 'soirees' and church gatherings with his own father and sister– my dad sang bass. Our home was always filled with song- we sang grace every night before dinner, l am singing it now in my head- it sounded beautiful.

He taught me to stand up for myself, to fight but never start one. To be true to yourself and always reach for the moon.

He is the kind of man that would give you the shirt from his back, the kind that laughs before adversity and complains only about injustice. The kind that places low value on material worth- high worth in the people around him. He is turning 80 years now but still has a twinkle in his eye, a smile and a laugh never far away - you just want to be around him and turning from his door is always a sadness.

In memories of childhood my dad is beside me, listening, laughing, encouraging, cuddling me...

and all he has given is part of me forever.

I am so proud to be his daughter.


MissKris said...

What a lovely tribute to a remarkable man. The love you have for him shines thru loud and clear. How blessed you are to still have him with you. May he have more birthdays to celebrate!

We're down to the wire, moving out of our house tomorrow, Saturday. I am so exhausted and yet so exhilarated at the same time. Thank you for all your kind words, thoughts, and support. xxoo

Rob said...

Things seemed so much simpler back then, people wanted less and were happier for it. By the way you should tell people what a piece box is!

Alan said...

What a great story, Sarah! Your father obviously wasn't one to tiptoe his way through life and living it with selfless fortitude. May he continue to bless the lives of those around him for many more years to come!

Betty said...

What a man, husband, father, grandfather and man of God! I had a good father but not one to openly show affection and love. I have always envied children who had fathers such as yours. I've encouraged my husband to shower affection and love to our children and he does.

Please wish a belated very Happy Birthday to your Daddy from a lady in South Georgia, USA.....

Blessings to you....Betty

Jean-Anne said...

Aww bless what a lovely tribute Sarah. So many nice memories and more to come. Xx

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